By Substance Nature
“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly” – Mahatma Gandhi
Innocent or guilty in the precarious hands of eventuality, or in the expected outcome of investigations by the panel of inquiry constituted by the Akwa Ibom State Government, the inconsolable downhearted man that Apostle Akan Weeks has recently become needs and deserves nothing now than comfort, clear-hearted condolences and assurances of better times, and therapies on survivilism. Akan Weeks needs friends to camp around him. Weeks needs sympathizers. He needs people who can console from the still depths of their hearts. Weeks does not want compassionate ridiculers and intruding critics who are more eager for interviews than words that can uplift the desolate. The confused apostle needs rest. Some tranquility.
This is the third time within the last one month since the disaster that I have had the piercing displeasure of forcing myself to write on this never-to-be-forgotten ugly slice of history on the Akwa Ibom State map. In all, without the slightest intention to preempt observations and conclusions of the on-going findings on what may have led to what and why, I have insisted, and I am still insisting, that in the obvious desperation to use the structure for the scheduled bishopric consecration, principles and safety rules were grossly violated by those involved. Period. Dismiss all the sanctimonious claims by bread-and-water Christians that the disaster was the will of God; which invariably would imply that God was thirsty for His children’s blood and tears that day. What a blasphemy! “It is not my portion” they would brag. And the question is: Whose portion is it?
The investigations and sittings have since begun. The Uyo Capital Development Authority (UCCDA) maintained that it had issued a “Stop Work” order to the construction of the building or marked ‘X’ on it – which means that the UCCDA’s never issued a permit to the contractor to begin construction. Akan Weeks in his rebuttal however told the panel that he gave the sum of N300, 000 to one Etido Udoh, a staff of the UCCDA, as approval fee since 2014, but no receipt was issued to him then. But while he was in the hospital after the church collapse, the same Etido called and “said he wanted to give me my church documents. I told him to reach my counsel. They returned my building documents and the N300, 000 through one Mrs. Ima David, a lawyer to my lawyer Ini Ekpo on Januray 4, 2017 at the premises of the court”.
Apostle Weeks added that UCCDA never marked ‘X’ on the building, and that the roofing contract was made open to the public for biddings and at the end, Mr. Idorenyin Daniel of White Steel Integrated Services was awarded the contract. More so, Weeks disclosed that he did not ask that the central pillar in the building be removed to make for more space on the day of the disaster. He said he was confessing as a Man of God he is and needs swear upon anything.
In the interim, it is necessary to insist on knowing certain things. Why did UCCDA allegedly collect the sum of N300, 000 from Akan Weeks since 2014 but delayed the issuance of receipts then, only to suddenly see reason in doing so just after the collapse? Why did Apostle Weeks and his contractor begin construction without insisting that certain approvals and papers be obtained? While convincing answers are still expected, these two questions, in the way I see them appears to have some thick layers which might be too risky to unveil by the reticent and dubious. But for the sake of truth, they ought to be unmasked.
In Nigeria, as we know, it is not all illegal or wrongly sited building or structure that can just be pulled down with the spirit of the law. Some places are untouchable. We’ve seen this played out before, even against professional advice and public outcry. The present situation therefore puts both Akan Weeks and the UCCDA at a fix, though the sword dangles. But one is tempted to think about the intimidating and ever increasing profile of personalities that worship at the Reigners Church, which, presumably, may have given its founder a thick fiber of connection that no one in his normal sense may ordinarily want to dare. Maybe not.
There is a thread of expressed or tacit conspiracy and compromises in the ugly scenario that cannot be clothed with linen. The ongoing investigations therefore must play down on legal technicalities, but aimed at convincing all that it knows it work. Otherwise the matter might be unnecessarily protracted and the purpose defeated. I know the law has names and interpretations to every contravention and penalties could be exacted accordingly. But in making recommendations in this very matter, considering the emotions already attached to it, let the panel be fearless and thorough, merciful and careful. After all, no degree of punishment can make for the irreparable losses or bring back the dead. Let what happened that day rather be a sacrificial precedent for forestalling a repeat and protecting the future.
Accordingly, a statement of my patent in my last article on this matter that still resounds was that, “One soul lost in a human-induced disaster is as painful as a million who met their end in a natural cataclysm”. I still maintain that.